Commerce under containment

Introduction

1. The Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport (MCTTT) on 19 May 2021 released guidelines on how “essential” businesses and those supporting “essential” businesses can operate within the Government-declared containment areas at this time. These are available at the MCTTT website.

2. The guidelines suggest that Government thinks “containment” will be with us for a while. No doubt this will depend on whether community transmission of the Covid virus can be brought under control, but even then containment may continue as a preventative measure. Munro Leys’s own planning timeframe is 12 weeks.

Essential and supporting businesses

3. Within the containment zones, only essential businesses and those supporting such essential businesses can operate. A list is provided in the Schedule. MCTTT has confirmed to us that these businesses do not require MCTTT approval to operate. They can do so as of right.

4. Fiji-wide, no “high risk businesses” can operate. “High risk” businesses are set out in the Schedule.

5. Businesses that do operate are required to comply with Minimum COVIDSafe Protocols set out by the Ministry. These include onerous and potentially costly requirements such as:

• all employees being supplied with smartphones and
• company transportation to all employees from their homes to their workplaces.

Passes

6. The Ministry has also set up a process to apply for the following passes:

(a) movement during curfew
(b) movement between containment zones, and
(c) “permit to operate”.

Applications will need to be made at covidbizpass@mcttt.gov.fj. We are seeking more information on criteria for the “permit to operate”. We have asked MCTTT to set out clearly and publicly what those criteria are to help business decide whether it is worthwhile to apply.

What about professional services firms?

7. Professional services firms (such as law firms and accounting firms are excluded) from the list of essential or supporting businesses. While many of our services can be provided remotely, the services on which we depend to support our clients – court, land and business registries – cannot all do so. We are working with these registries on improving business continuity during the containment period.

Conclusion

8. Please note the MCTTT announcement summarised above. Businesses should also be aware that the required public health regulations supporting this change have, to our knowledge, not yet been gazetted. There is sometimes a mismatch between the published law and what Government agencies think they are enforcing. If you feel that any enforcement action affecting you is unfair or unwarranted, please contact us.

Contact

9. Please contact Richard Naidu or  Glenis Yee for further information on this Alert.

 

Disclaimer
The information and opinions in this Legal Alert are for general information purposes only. They are not intended as specific legal or other professional advice and should not be relied upon or treated as a substitute for specific advice. Munro Leys can accept no responsibility for any loss arising from reliance on the general information contained in this Legal Alert.